Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
~ Finish the earlier reading if you haven't as yet
~ Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) - Chapter 6 "Into Action," from the beginning of the chapter to the bottom of page 75, ending with "Have we tried to make mortar without sand?"
~ The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step Five
~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous) - Step Five
Let it out.
Connect with Higher Power.
Whoo Hoo, good for you, friends! You are still here, and so am I! And we are moving right along - starting a new chapter in the AA Big Book, and getting close to the half way point in the study! Sure there are difficulties, and we aren't doing things perfectly, but we are hanging in and when we do that, change starts happening in us! As far as I'm concerned, I am "in recovery" if I'm still here, regardless of my struggles. My God/Higher Power is always encouraging me, pointing out all the positive things, every little baby step of progress, never critical of my failings. And coincidentally, that brings us to Step Five where we will be discussing our problems with God, ourselves and another human being :-)
WHAT IS THE "GOD PART" OF THIS STEP?
My mind is a wonderful thing, but it was never able to help me stop compulsive eating. It couldn't see the truth of what was going on between me and others, what was going on with me and food and eating. In the OA 12 & 12, it says " . . . . through years of compulsive eating we have become experts at rationalization. Now, with God's help, we leave rationalization behind and begin to practice integrity. We face the reality of our mistakes. We see the part we ourselves have played in creating our own misfortunes, and we realize the futility of continuing to blame others for our compulsive eating and our unmanageable lives. In Step Five we are learning a new way of life. From now on, we will readily acknowledge our wrongs instead of seeking to hid them from ourselves and others. A humble admission of our mistakes to God is our first step in this new direction. We willingly open our hearts so that a life changing power can come in and heal us."
WHY DO I HAVE TO ADMIT THESE THINGS TO ANOTHER PERSON?
1. OTHERWISE I MAY NOT STOP COMPULSIVE EATING. "If we skip this vital step we may not overcome drinking." AA Big Book
2. IT'S DOCUMENTED THAT IT WORKS Both science, & religions from ancient times, have found that sharing about our flaws and mistakes with another person is a healing practice. There is a deep need in every human being " . . . . for practical insight & knowledge of his own personality flaws and for a discussion of them with an understanding and trustworthy person." AA 12 & 12
3. BREAKING OUT OF ISOLATION "What are we likely to receive from Step Five? For one thing, we shall get rid of that terrible sense of isolation we've always had." AA 12 & 12. The first time I read this I wondered how they knew this about me! Come to find out, this is a common feeling among alcoholics and compulsive eaters. Learning that I am not alone in this struggle, that others have been in this same situation, have the same difficulties, is priceless.
4. FORGIVENESS "We began to get the feeling that we could be forgiven, no matter what we had thought or done." And we become more able to forgive others. AA 12 & 12. The wrongs I have done were shameful, hidden, and I was stuck in that place with them until I shared them.
5. HUMILITY "Another great dividend we may expect from confiding our defects to another human being is humility - a word often misunderstood. . . . a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by sincere attempt to become what we could be." AA 12 & 12. I'm not the worst nor the best of people. Just "another bozo on the bus."
6. REALISM & HONESTY "More realism and therefore more honesty about ourselves are the great gains we make under the influence of Step Five . . . . we began to suspect how much trouble self-delusion had been causing us." AA 12 & 12. I used to dramatize my difficulties - now I see them more like they are and without the "spin" I used to put on it.
7. COMPLETE THE "HOUSECLEANING" "Until we actually sit down and talk aloud about what we have so long hidden, our willingness to clean house is still largely theoretical." AA 12 & 12. There's a different and deeper experience when I speak one-on-one and tell another person about what I've done, why, how I felt before and after doing it, and "what those actions cost us." OA 12 & 12. I process the information differently when I share about it, when I speak about it. It's not just going round and round in my head, where it seems it never comes to a point. As I share with another person, especially when I do it by speaking, I begin to see how I harmed myself by keeping my wrongs, my mistakes and my struggles secret, and how this led to more problems.
8. OUR MINDS AREN'T RELIABLE IN SELF-ASSESSMENT In this effort, " . . . . what comes to us alone may be garbled by our rationalization and wishful thinking." AA 12 & 12. My mind has spent a lifetime rationalizing and justifying what I've done, and making up fantasies about how I will save myself. Just as I can often perceive the error in someone else's thinking, another person can be more objective about mine.
9. RELIEF ". . . . Provided you hold back nothing, your sense of relief will mount from minute to minute. The dammed-up emotions of years break out of their confinement, and miraculously vanish as soon as they are exposed. As the pain subsides, a healing tranquility takes its place. And when humility and serenity are so combined, something else of great moment is apt to occur." AA 12 & 12.
WHO SHOULD I CHOOSE TO SHARE THIS WITH?
Now that I've been convinced that I need to share with another person about my defects, the wrongs and harm I've done in my life, who can I choose to do this with? I thought about this a lot before I chose to do it with my sponsor, someone I didn't know in any other context in my life. I felt that a person who has done this step themselves will "get" what I'm trying to do, will have some insight. That's the good part of my thought process. Here's the other part - I figured this person wouldn't have any axe to grind, to use the information against me, and no way to talk behind my back. I know - not very trusting, right? Also there's pride and shame there - I think I'm saving my "reputation" from being sullied with family, friends and acquaintances in my life, and I feel I can disclose things to a 12 step friend that I couldn't to a "real life" friend or family member. Well, that's OK! The OA 12 & 12 says "What we need is a loving witness, someone who will keep our confidences and will listen without judging us or seeking to fix us . . . . Also . . . . objective enough to tell us if there is something glaring we've omitted and who can guide us through this process if needed." I've known 12 step friends who have chosen to do this with a close family member, friend, clergy member. There is no right or wrong here.
It does take trust to share these things with another person. We are wary of trusting others. Many of us have been hurt; our trust has been betrayed. Many of us have a lot of shame and our self-esteem is fragile. We have a fear of being judged or criticized. We feel we are "less than," or "unworthy," uniquely horrible on the one hand, and on the other we have a secret belief that we are special, so much better than others realize, if only people could see it. We are afraid another person who knows the worst things about us will find us unacceptable and that rejection will plummet us into the pit. The OA 12 & 12 says, "Determined to get well, we willingly take the risk. When we do, a miracle happens. Another human being knows us truly and fully yet accepts us anyway. We begin to experience trust, and we feel that if another person can accept us unconditionally, perhaps we can accept ourselves unconditionally as well."
One of my favorite passages in all of the 12 step literature I've read is in the Step Five section of the OA 12 & 12, at the bottom of page 49 to the top of page 50: "Often we see that, at some level, we were fighting for survival when we did the things we did. Most of us find that fear is at the root of many of our damaging emotions and actions. As we grow in the twelve-step way of life, we learn that our fears usually stem from the inability to trust that our basic needs will be met." This struck home to me the first time I read it and has continued to stay with me, and it is a source of hope and confidence in this 12 step process for me.
FOR YOUR REFLECTION AND COMMENT:
1. What concerns or difficulties do you have as you work Step Five?
2. What criteria are you using to choose the person with whom to share your Step Five?
3. Please share any experience you've had in working Step Five.
4. Any other thoughts or reactions to the reading or Step Five?
The Twelve Steps